Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Schadenfreude

So I've been trying to write this post for almost two weeks.  Well...in all honesty, I've been trying to write about this topic, this major event in my life, for five years at least.

A common blog trope is to begin with a definition.  In order to just get started writing, I'm falling back on this tactic.

Merriam Webster defines Schadenfreude as "enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others."  Of course most of y'all know that it's a German word.  M-W goes with Schaden (damage) and Freude (joy), but since I studied German for at least six years back in high school and college, I can pretend to expound a little deeper.  Schaden is one of those words that has quite a few connotations.  As a noun it means prejudice, as a verb it can mean to derogate, to cause harm, to cause mischief, to impair.  When you want to show pity you say "Schade" meaning like "oh, that's a shame" or "that's too bad."  Freude can also mean to take delight in - it's a very multipurpose word for all things good and happy.  Leave it to the Germans to shove those two completely opposite emotions together.  But oh so appropriate, huh?

My word (ha.  Oof.  Sorry.  Can't resist a pun).  That took a while to get around to getting to the point.  This topic is still so tricky/painful/delicate/in-the-past for me that it takes a hundred years for me to even introduce it.  This is as specific as I care to get right now.  So here goes.  Ten years ago I was the object of one woman's bitterness and anger - to the degree that she attempted to ruin my professional reputation in my own hometown and actively, and quite successfully, managed to derail my career and destroy any naive belief I may have had in the innate goodness of people.  As a result of her actions I was fired for the first time in my life, lost every shred of confidence or self-worth I had worked to develop in my field of work, and was forced out of necessity to move in with my mother (and 8 yr old daughter) at the ripe age of 28.  I do not hold this woman personally responsible for the darkest years of my adult life so far but I know that she purposely shoved that first domino over.  I know it and I've accepted that another person, another woman, another mother acted forcefully so that I would suffer.  Ahhh, the warm fuzzies of sisterhood!

I can't emphasize enough how hard I have worked to get myself where I am today and do value the lessons I learned from that period in my life but yeah, there are plenty of times I wish I hadn't had to learn them in such a painful way.  I wish I'd had the confidence and wherewithal to recognize earlier how much damage a person containing the horrific combination of intelligence, wealth, and the desire to harm others can cause.  I wish I could have avoided her completely or fought harder for myself.  I was too shocked and then too scared and then too poor to properly deal with it.  So I packed up, moved in with my mother with whom I hadn't lived since I was 17 (for very good reason), and, after months and months of darkness and crippling depression, started to put the pieces of my life and career back together.

I will never identify this woman in any way other than to say that she is dangerous and possibly a sociopath.  No fucking kidding.  I learned from her to avoid her type as quickly and completely as possible.  I have worked very hard to stop trying to understand WHY someone could do what she did and really just not think of her at all.  I did not want to wish any sort of retaliatory harm on her - I just wanted to get to where I hardly thought of her at all.  For the most part that's been the case.  Until a few weeks ago when I heard from friends about this woman and her life the past few years.  It sounds like some pretty bad things are happening to her.  Not "dying slowly of a terminal illness" bad, more like "you reap what you sow" kind of bad.  I'm hesitant to call it karma because I'm not sure I really believe in karma.  I mean, I've seen plenty of bad things happen to good people and vice versa...but I still believe in putting good energy into the world regardless of what you've been through.  And I can't help but also believe, a tiny bit, in that energy you put into the world growing and expanding and then, eventually, coming back around to you....whether that energy be good or bad.  Wait.  Isn't that pretty much exactly what karma is?  Maybe I do believe in it.   I don't believe completely in Buddhism but it sounds like I'm on board the Karma train, destination: Yourself.  Woo woo!

So yeah.  I bet this is frustratingly vague unless you're one of my close friends and you nurtured me through that awful, awful time.  In that case - I love you.  Thank you for believing in me, soothing me, cheering me up, sending me money when I was too ashamed to ask for it but really needed it,  building me back up, and being the truest, best friends a woman could know.  I must have been REALLY good in my past lives to deserve friends like you.

So, to honor that love and support you showed me ten years ago, I will not resort to shallow or mean-spirited Schadenfreude.




But hot damn....it feels great to be validated! 

3 comments:

Carrie said...

Alannah, you did a pretty good job of putting a pretty face on such a bad situation. I remember visiting you and Stella with Kelli(maybe Kristin) at your house on Mountain in Eureka. You must have moved from ES to Fayetteville right after that. Look how far you've come! Greata job w/ travel, a good student daughter with sights on college and scholarships!

ste-pha-nie said...

You are a hero. Stella shines from the inside out because of you :)

Alannah said...

Carrie & Stephanie - Much love to you both! Carrie - you and your sisters and mother have been such pillars of support for me when I couldn't support myself. I hope I can properly show my gratitude to you.